Did the Aum Shinrikyo Detonate a Nuclear Bomb in the Australian Outback?

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This thread on Reddit investigates the terrifying possibility that the Japanese Doomsday Cult Aum Shinrikyo, most famous for their gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, got their hands on a nuclear bomb and set it off in the Australian outback in 1993.

Everyone agrees that something cataclysmic happened out there that year:

Late on the evening of May 28, 1993, something shattered the calm of the Australian outback and radiated shock waves outward across hundreds of miles of scrub and desert. Around the same time, truck drivers crossing the region and gold prospectors camping nearby saw the dark sky illuminated by bright flashes, and they and other people heard the distant rumble of loud explosions.*

But while many chalk up the event a meteor. Others, including the United States Government have activly investigated the possibility Aum Shinrikyo’s involvement. From the Reddit post:

-Senate investigators say the cult recruited at least two nuclear scientists in Russia.

-Notebooks later seized from Mr. Hayakawa show he wanted to buy the ultimate munition there. In one entry, he asked, ”How much is a nuclear warhead?” and listed several prices.

-Aum Shinrikyo, or Supreme Truth, turned out to have accumulated some $1 billion and to have won more than 50,000 converts in at least six countries.

-Dr. Gregory van der Vink, head of the science investigation, said in an interview. ”But the group was into biological and chemical weapons and was attempting to acquire nuclear ones. I’m still amazed.”

-At the ranch, investigators found that the sect had been mining uranium.

-Investigators discovered that the cult, Aum Shinrikyo, had tried to buy Russian nuclear warheads and had set up an advanced laboratory

-The site has a known uranium deposit.

-Documents seized from Mr. Hayakawa include some 10 pages written during his visit to Australia in April and May 1993 that refer to the whereabouts of Australian properties rich in uranium, including one reference praising the high quality of the ore.

-Seismic observatories in Australia tracked the event to a location 28.47 degrees south latitude, 121.73 degrees east longitude, a remote area near the cult’s ranch.

-People in the area saw the sky blaze, heard loud explosions and felt the ground shake, in one case knocking beer cans off a table.

-Mr. Mason noted that earthquakes were very rare in the region and that mining explosions were illegal at night. ”I currently believe that a nuke is a very real possibility but a meteorite and an earthquake cannot be ruled out either,” he wrote Senate investigators in October 1995.

-Eventually, the IRIS team calculated that the event was 170 times larger than the largest mining explosion ever recorded in the Australian region, to helping rule out that possibility. The disturbance was calculated as having the force of a small nuclear explosion.

Being Twelve

You’ll find a ton of parenting advice online. There are countless blogs, magazines and subreddits each filled with a slew of “expert” advice on how to raise your kids.

But what’s often missing from the equation is the kids themselves. Surprisingly few resources across any media focus on a child’s point of view. There is Michael Apted’s excellent UP series. And there are a some sociological and anthropological studies that looks at childhood from the perspectives of children – although these tend to focus in on specific issues such as divorce. But generally speaking, there is surprisingly little out there that can help parents to get an unmediated view of their child’s world.

WNYC has launched a new project called Being Twelve. It’s a series of first person interviews with children on the cusp of adulthood. The series is pretty NYC-centric. But most of the insight that shines through here is universal. Best of all the series really focuses on letting kids answer important questions in their own words.

Meat Puppets’ Sad Songs

There are some singers and songwriters that seem to have a sadness that runs under their music no matter how bright and poppy and bright their melodies are. Evan Dando is one, J. Mascis is another and so is Jackson Brown. But for me, the Meat Puppet’s Curt Kirkwood has always been the master of this elusive feeling. He has a resignation and weariness in his delivery that just leaves my heart feeling buoyant and flattened at the same time.

Mirage is from the album of the same name. It’s one of the first Meat Puppet’s records to benefit from real studio production. The instruments are crystal clean and the harmonies are spot on.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s MacBeth

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I recently watched the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2010 production of Macbeth on Amazon Prime starring Patrick Stewart. The play is set in surreal version of World War II Russia, employing a vaguely Stalanist motif. It’s a version of the play that’s dark, intense and very claustrophobic. in other words, excellent.

It’s been some time since I really engaged with Shakespeare and I found it really helpful to watch the play with the closed captions on. It made following the subtleties and beauty of the writing a lot easier. Afterward I went online and brushed up a bit on the history and interpretations of the play (including it’s reputation as cursed play, which I’ll write about later) and came across a wonderful site called No Sweat Shakespeare.

When I was first reading shakespeare as teenager I would have eaten up a resource like this. At the time I had Coles Notes (Cliff Notes in America) to help me understand the plays,  along with the somewhat mediocre help of teachers. But I certainly didn’t have anything of this caliber. No Sweat Shakespeare features plays and even specific soliloquys written out in modern language that help really drive home the meaning and artistry behind the words:

Spoken by Macbeth, Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

“Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow” Soliloquy Translation:
How the days stretched out – each one the same as the one before, and they would continue to do so, tediously, until the end of history. And every day we have lived has been the last day of some other fool’s life, each day a dot of candle-light showing him the way to his death-bed. Blow the short candle out: life was no more than a walking shadow – a poor actor – who goes through all the emotions in one hour on the stage and then bows out. It was a story told by an idiot, full of noise and passion, but meaningless.

The New Bryan Ferry sounds like the Old Bryan Ferry. This is a good thing.

Bryan Ferry has been on a bit of a retro tear as of late. His last album, 2008’s Olympia, opened with a sound that was more than a little reminiscent of those last vibrating bars that close out True to Life, the final track on Roxy Music’s Avalon. The effect was to create a sense of continuity between Roxy’s last album and the first track on Olympia, as though the record had somehow emerged from a time warp nearly 30 years later.

Unfortunately, Olympia – despite the glam Kate Moss album cover and retro keyboard sounds – was not quite the companion piece to Avalon that we all would have liked. The production was a bit too loose. The songs, unrefined. But then, Avalon is truly one of the greatest albums of all time. A work I would probably but in my top twenty if not top ten.

The best sequels to Avalon were the two Solo album’s Ferry released immediately after Roxy Music disbanded: 1985’s Boys and Girls ( which according to wikipedia is often called Avalon II) and 1987’s Bête Noire. With production help by Rhett Davies and Patrick Leonard respectively, these albums delivered intense, exotic sophistication. Jazz, funk, and ethereal, distinctly eighties electronic sounds melding together to create a  dark night of blue-eyed soul.

As Ferry’s catalogue developed, he gradually moved away from the the subtle, hyper-detailed ambience of these eighties landmarks. 1993’s Taxi was still interesting but with each successive album Ferry has become more and more of the traditional crooner he has so long been modeling his image after. This transformation probably reached its zenith with 1999’s As Time Goes By, a collection of jazz standards, along with 2007’s Dylanesque.

With Avonmore, Ferry has finally returned to the promise shown in his two Eighties works. Rhett Davies is working once more in the producer’s chair and the album is chock full of interesting performers including Niles Rogers, Flea, Johnny Marr, Maceo Parker and Ronnie Specter.

All of these ingredients create a work that is satisfying on a lot of levels.  Most of all because it’s so great to a see an artist who has explored so many different avenues of musical expression return to what they do best and truly deliver.

The Music of Father Yod

The Source Family were a new religious movement a.k.a cult that existed throughout the 1970’s. The enigmatic Father Yod standing as the group’s leader and patriarch.

During the group’s heyday they were primarily known for their health food restaurant on Sunset Blvd. a chic place, among the first of it’s kind frequented by Hollywood stars and earning rave reviews for their more natural approach to cooking. In many ways the place was ahead of its time, anticipating many trends that would emerge as a dominant part of restaurant culture in the 2010’s.

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What the group was less known for was their music – long, intensely psychedelic jams much akin to the work of Can, Faust and other avant-garde Krautrock groups of the era. The releases have become highly collectible and sought-after. Fortunately, as with most things in the world, many of the recordings have been digitized and uploaded to YouTube. And so here is one of there very best albums, Penetration: an Aquarian Symphony.

The full story of the Source family can be found in this incredible documentary:

Changing the Yosemite system font to San Franscisco

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Using instructions found on Github, I successfully changed the system font on my Mac from Yosemite’s default Helvetica Neue to San Francisco, Apple’s newly designed font for the upcoming iWatch.

While I won’t be getting an iWatch because I don’t need a computer actually strapped to my body, I do think the font that it uses is quite nifty: a clean, adaptive sans serif  that, for some treason I haven’t quite figured out yet, is a lot easier on the eyes than Helvetica Neue.

What can I say? It feels like a brand new machine!